On a recent trip to Central Market in Detroit Lakes, Minn., I found beautiful, fresh cherries on sale for only $1.48 per pound. These were the best-looking cherries I’ve seen all summer, for a fraction of the price I paid last month, so I snatched up two large bags and began dreaming up new ways to use them to ensure they wouldn’t go to waste.

Cherries are appealing on so many levels — taste, appearance, nutrition — and each summer, I find myself purchasing them in abundance whenever they are on sale.

Fresh cherries are in season and now is the time to get them at their peak, both in flavor and price. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Fresh cherries are in season and now is the time to get them at their peak, both in flavor and price. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I’ve featured several recipes in the past to showcase this glorious summer fruit, including Cherry Basil Galettes, Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Cherry Salsa, Corn and Cherry Salsa and the classic Cherries Jubilee.

The Cherry Vinaigrette that dresses this week’s Cherry Arugula Salad is an excellent opportunity to work your way through an abundance of fresh cherries. In fact, it is so delicious that I think I will try it with frozen cherries once the fresh ones have left us for another season. Deep pink in color, this dressing is brightly flavored with a blend of Bing cherries, fresh basil, garlic, Dijon, honey and a blend of both red wine and balsamic vinegars.

Tart, tangy and full of flavor, Sarah's fresh Cherry Vinaigrette is the perfect dressing for salads with bitter greens, or served warm as a sauce for pork and chicken. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Tart, tangy and full of flavor, Sarah's fresh Cherry Vinaigrette is the perfect dressing for salads with bitter greens, or served warm as a sauce for pork and chicken. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

The natural sweetness of the balsamic vinegar works well with the cherries, but if you don’t already have it in your pantry, you can use all red wine vinegar and the dressing will still taste great. This vinaigrette is tart, tangy and versatile enough to serve with any number of salads and can also be served warm as a sauce with pork and chicken dishes.

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To ensure maximum flavor, the fresh cherries are pitted, halved and then cooked over medium-low heat with a bit of water until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the cherries have reduced in size by half. This step amplifies the flavors of the cherries and makes a considerable difference to the taste and texture of the dressing.

Before blending the vinaigrette, the cherries are cooked in a small amount of water until they begin to blister and reduce by half. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Before blending the vinaigrette, the cherries are cooked in a small amount of water until they begin to blister and reduce by half. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

A food processor or blender is essential for this recipe, as the ingredients are pureed to ensure that the proper consistency is achieved. The recipe includes a small amount of water, which can be increased to achieve your desired result. One batch yields roughly 1 cup of dressing, and since the salad requires only about 1/4 to 1/3 cup, you can save the rest to be enjoyed later with other dishes.

This Cherry Vinaigrette can be served with any green salad but is especially nice with bitter greens like arugula or endive. The salad recipe combines a bed of baby arugula with fresh cherries, red onion, cucumber, pistachios and fresh mozzarella cheese for a dish that is filled with a diversity of flavor, color and texture. To enhance its texture, I toss the arugula with olive oil, salt and pepper before assembling the salad.

Tossing the arugula leaves in olive oil before assembling the salad enhances their flavor and texture. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Tossing the arugula leaves in olive oil before assembling the salad enhances their flavor and texture. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Fresh, colorful and delicious, this Cherry Arugula Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette is the perfect blend of summer flavors and a great way to ensure that no cherry gets left behind.

Sarah's Cherry and Arugula Salad features a bed of baby arugula leaves topped with fresh cherries, pistachios, red onion, cucumber and fresh mozzarella cheese. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Sarah's Cherry and Arugula Salad features a bed of baby arugula leaves topped with fresh cherries, pistachios, red onion, cucumber and fresh mozzarella cheese. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Cherry and Arugula Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette

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Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 5-ounce tub of baby arugula greens

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup cucumber, seeded and small-diced

½ cup fresh mozzarella, cut into half-inch cubes

¼ cup pistachios, roughly chopped

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved (about 15 cherries)

Cherry Vinaigrette

Directions:

In a large bowl, toss the arugula with the olive oil, salt and pepper until evenly coated. Transfer the arugula to a medium platter, distributing evenly all around. Top with the red onion, cucumber, mozzarella, pistachios and cherries, then drizzle with ¼ cup of the cherry vinaigrette, adding more as desired, or leave the salad plain and serve the dressing on the side.

Cherry Vinaigrette

Makes: about 1 cup

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh cherries, halved and pitted

¼ cup water

1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped

3 large basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 ½ teaspoons honey

1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water (add more if too thick)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Place the cherries and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cherries are reduced to a half-cup, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from burner and let cherries cool for 5 minutes.

Use a food processor or blender to blitz the cooled cherries with all the ingredients, except the olive oil. Turn the processor or blender on and mix until thoroughly combined, about 45 to 60 seconds; taste and add more seasoning as desired.

With the machine running, add the olive oil through the feed slot in a slow, steady stream and blend for 1 minute. Check the consistency of the dressing and add more water if too thick. Blend for another minute, then refrigerate for 15 minutes before serving.

Serve cold or at room temperature as a dressing for salads, or warm as a sauce for pork and chicken.

To store: The vinaigrette may be prepared in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Sarah’s Tips:

  • Tossing the arugula with olive oil, salt and pepper before assembling the salad enhances the overall texture of the salad.
  • For a spicy version, add some fresh jalapeno with the cherries, starting with half a pepper, roughly chopped, and adding more as desired.
  • Other herbs, including cilantro and fresh mint, can be added in place of, or in addition to, the basil.

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.